The Swahili coastal features rich tradition of vernacular architecture, centred on the 'stonetowns' that were founded along the Indian Ocean coast from the 11th century onwards. Many still thrive today, and the inhabitants are rightly proud of their heritage, which includes UNESCO World Heritage sites at Kilwa Kisiwani, Songo Mnara, Zanzibar, and Lamu.
However, tourists and residents alike are often unaware of the region's illustrious past and cultural heritage sites are not currently presented to their full potential. This network strives to raise awareness of Tanzania's cultural heritage and bringing local communities into that discussion. It will take advantage of existing heritage expertise in Tanzanian and Kenyan universities, and continue to build a dialogue between scholars, heritage organisations, and communities. This will be commenced through developing a model of best practice at Pangani, a town on the northern Tanzanian coast with a rich built heritage of the later Swahili period.
Over two summers we will organise workshops that brings together scholars and non-academic stakeholders, where will discuss priorities and challenges for Tanzanian coastal heritage. This will be followed by a 'field school' at Pangani, training local scholars in techniques of mapping and documenting built spaces. Community groups, including schools, will be incorporated into this training, and encouraged to participate in finding out about the region's past. This approach is designed to foster co-production of knowledge, building on existing understandings to create a visions for the town's history.